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Chinese GP: Post Race press conference

NEWS STORY
09/04/2017

Podium Interviews - Conducted by Martin Brundle

Congratulations, Lewis, you led from start to finish, but it was pretty tricky at the beginning, the conditions looked part slick, part intermediate…
Lewis Hamilton: It was incredible. Firstly, a big thank you to all the people here in Shanghai for coming out. Thank you. We've got such a great crowd here. Today was very, very tough for us all. It was difficult to know. I went out in inters initially, on the laps to the grid, and then I tried the slick and it was impossible, and then we all started on inters and it was very, very hard, because there was a lot of dry patches everywhere, mostly dry except for a couple of corners that were wet. So trying to keep the car on the track and look after the tyres at the same time was very tough. A great job done by Sebastian and this young dude here [Max Verstappen], who's always like…

Max has actually been voted driver of the day today, so he's beat you on that vote today.
LH: Oh, great, great! It's OK, I don't mind being on the top step! Lastly, I just want to say a big thank you to this team. I'm just so tremendously proud of everyone on my own personal team, in terms of my own like staff and that, but also my team who work so hard back at the factory to make this possible. And this race is so real; it's so exciting for me personally. I don't know how it is for everyone else but I hope they're enjoying it.

But he suddenly appeared just eight seconds behind you and closing you down at the end. You had to get back on the gas.
LH: Yeah, exactly. We were matching times. I think if there wasn't safety cars and stuff it would have been a lot closer.

Talking of that, congratulations Sebastian, a bit unlucky really, you pitted under the virtual safety car and there was a safety car straight after.
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, my start was OK but then I realized that the intermediates had quite a lot of degradation. It was very dry in some parts of the track so I knew they would not last. I was happy to take the risk. Obviously virtual safety car you save a bit of time in the pit stop. And then the safety car came just when I was about to start to feel that the dry tyre was a lot quicker, so I couldn't use the momentum, the advantage and I lost a lot of positions. But then I had a very exciting race; I really enjoyed it. I was stuck a little bit in the train for a whole but then I finally made the move and then, yeah, I tried to chase Lewis down as much as possible but I had the feeling that every time I put a lap in he was able to respond, so I think we were a good match, it could have been a different race but a good recovery and as I said, wheel-to-wheel racing… I touched wheels with Daniel as well…

You took the paint off the side of his tyre!
SV: It was good fun at least.

Take us through those moves, because I think any racing driver in the history or Formula One would like those moves on his CV, because they were committed weren't they? Down into Turn 6 you were really going for it there.
SV: Yeah, obviously my target was to catch Lewis and I was stuck in the train and I was getting a bit angry or annoyed and I wanted to get by and I had the feeling that I could go a lot faster in these conditions, so when I was behind Daniel I saw him blocking down the inside because I had a good run out of Turn 4. I said 'OK, you have to try it around the outside, brake really late and hard'. Fortunately he didn't lock up. I had him in the mirror, checking, otherwise I have to open immediately before he would make contact. Then on the exit I was a bit compromised, a bit in the dirt, getting a bit of wheel spin, but then I got a bit my elbows out. Yeah, he really squeezed me, but it was good fun and I had the inside for the next corner.

Some cracking overtaking today. Moving on to Max. Wow, driver of the day as I said, the fans have voted for you. You had some pretty spectacular first few laps coming through the pack, tell us about it.
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it was very challenging. I think on lap one I passed nine cars. So, not to bad…

It was like a video game for you!
MV: More or less! It felt a bit like that. Of course very happy with that and then afterwards I think a very good race. I didn't have a lot of track time with the car balance from yesterday because I didn't do qualifying, so I was just basically nursing the car to the finish. And then, of course, very happy to be on the podium, I didn't expect that at all, especially starting 16th.

We sensed a bit of tension at the end. Daniel was catching you. You couldn't lap the Haas in front of you and you were getting a little bit anxious on the radio.
MV: I just wanted clear air, because I was already struggling a lot with the fronts and that doesn't help, but in the end I still finished on the podium, so very happy.

Great drive, congratulations, you gave us a lot of thrills there. Back to you, Lewis, you are equal on points now [with Vettel] after two races. This is going to be a real championship isn't it?
LH: I think it's going to be one of the closest ones, if not the closest I've personally ever experienced and I'm looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian but the other guys as well who are still going be in amongst it. I think it's great that we have… we were just saying that we were both pushing. Those last 20 laps or so really exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try to match and he was closing the gap a little bit, but I managed to stay ahead.

You know what makes me really happy is you're all up here really smiling. You're enjoying these cars aren't you, you're enjoying the championship this year.
LH: We are because it's that close a battle, and the cars look better and they are nicer to drive. It's not the easiest to get past but this guy seems to find it possible, particularly when it's wet, so we'll have to watch the video and see what he's been doing.

Press Conference

Lewis, that was the third grand slam of your career: pole, win, fastest lap, led every lap. You've had a few minutes to reflect on it now: how good was that?
LH: It's been a fantastic weekend and very, very grateful for all the efforts that the team have put in to enable us to be where we are and where I am today. It's very overwhelming when you have a weekend like this, because I'm just a link in the chain and, when you really think about it, there's thousands of people involved, hundreds and hundreds of people involved in me being up here and us being where we are. So, congratulations to all of them. I hope they're all celebrating back home. I hope they're feeling the spirit, I hope they're feeling the fight… because it's on. With the race… qualifying was great, to be able to pull that good lap out, it put me in a great position. Start was fantastic: I'm so happy with the way starts are going to I need to keep that up! And then in the race, really just keeping my composure. Some really tricky conditions out there, particularly on the Intermediate. Then, after that, once we'd done the pitstop with the Safety Car, the speed was very low and being very cold, our temperatures in our tyres, they're like… they're just not working, they're so cold. So it was very, very easy to make mistakes and I'm just grateful I didn't. And then at the end, the last 20-odd laps we were just pounding around as fasts as we can, exchanging lap times and I think that's what racing is all about. Perhaps in the future there will be times when we won't have a Safety Car and their won't be that six seconds gap, it'll be right on the tail either way. Excited for that.

Who had the faster car today? Mercedes or Ferrari?
SV: Well, you won, so…

LH: Yeah, the only summary we can come up with is that. It is, as I said, very, very close and there were times when Sebastian put laps in and it was hard to even match the time. The last ten or 12 laps he was doing a 35.6 and I was doing a 35.8 and it was very hard to get to where he was. Then there was other times in the race when I was quicker.

Sebastian, perhaps I can put that question to you as well. Who do you think had the faster car today?
SV: I'm maybe not clever enough but I try to not confuse myself. So I just go with the fact that who wins the race deserves to win. Every race we do I think the race winner deserves to win. So, yeah, Lewis did the best job. Obviously we were a bit unfortunate maybe with the Safety Car maybe early on - but even if it wasn't there you never know how it could have impacted on the race. Was it enough? We thought… I thought yes - but then it's a long race from there and it could have been a different outcome. But yeah, it was really good fun. Like Lewis said, I had a bit more to do in the race than he had. I saw he was controlling the pace, probably, in the beginning. Once I got past Kimi and Daniel I obviously tried to hunt him down but knowing that it would be difficult with that gap. And in the last couple of laps I asked the team to give me an average of what we needed to catch up etcetera, just to know what I have to do. When they came up with the conclusion that it's a bit more than half a second a lap… yeah… I kept pushing because you never know, maybe Lewis is doing a mistake, or has an issue with the car so I wanted to keep the pressure on - but yeah, I enjoyed the fact we were racing, even though not side-by-side or right behind each other but five, six, eight seconds apart. To hear that he was pushing as well I think is good news. So in terms of pace it was probably a match. Sometimes he was a bit faster, sometimes I was a bit faster. Overall it was good fun.

Could you have challenged Lewis had you not lost so much time behind your team-mate?
SV: Ah, would, could, should. I think Lewis was quick. Full stop. I think they did a good race, he did a good race, so to get into these kind of conversations, or discussions, usually there is no point. Today we finished second, very happy with that, we take it, good points. More than that, and much more valuable than that, it was an entertaining and fun race for me. I had some overtaking. It was difficult to get close to the car, like last race you felt the effect but here I think it's a better track to overtake and yeah, it's the way it should be in my opinion: you need to make it stick so it shouldn't come for free. You shouldn't just open the flap and sail past. It was good fun. I can't complain.

Max, you've scored Red Bull Racing's 100th podium today - but when you ripped open your curtains this morning, did you really think third place was on from 16th on the grid?
MV: No, of course not. I was targeting… if we could score some nice points that would be positive but then the first lap was very challenging. I think I passed nine cars. So that's not too bad. From there on I think we made the right call with the change of tyres to slicks. It's a bit of a gamble but it worked out. I was a bit cautious to not go too early and it paid off. Then I was in a good position afterwards. I managed to get past Daniel in Turn Six and then I was building a gap. But then straight away I felt the balance of the car was a bit limited to the front so I was destroying the left front and I couldn't get the car to turn and that's what basically happened when Sebastian was behind me, just under braking, very difficult, locked up and went wide. Then had quite a bit flat-spot. Tried to continue for one lap but then I decided to box. I knew the last stint would be very hard with which lap I stopped, but I managed to stay in third and that's, of course, very positive, especially after starting 16th. It was a great and entertaining race, I think.

Questions From The Floor

(Fu Yu - China Radio International) Question to Max. Congratulations on a podium finish. You conquered much of the field ahead of you and surged up early on in the race. When did you realise a podium finish was in sight and what did you do after that? I mean, did you keep on pushing and hope for a better place or were you more conservative and trying to hold on to your third place?
MV: To be honest, with ten laps to go I looked on the board and saw I was third. Before that I didn't know where I was. I had to keep pushing because I had my team-mate behind who was trying to get past. And then I had a Haas in front of me. He didn't move out of the way and he was always one and a half seconds in front so it was very tricky for me to get the front tyres to work, y'know, with the understeer? So yeah, I had to push quite hard at the end - but that's how it should be.

(Keren Wang - Top Driver) Max, do tell us more about the first lap when you said you passed around nine cars on the first lap. How did you find the grip so quickly on the first lap?
MV: To be honest, I had a good start, but I got a bit blocked because the two cars in front of me went into the middle so I had to back off, but still I gained one or two positions and then, yeah, basically just trying to find a gap so trying to go round the outside in turn one, I got another car, then inside turn two, another car, outside turn three, because there was space, trying to find grip because when you're behind a car you lose a lot of downforce so just trying to find some free space and basically everything happened... also turn six, turn seven, eight, always trying to go around the outside or inside and it worked. Yeah, nine cars is quite a lot on one lap but of course very happy that it worked.

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